New Year, New You?

joy1New Year New You? That’s what all the advertisements say right now.

It’s a new year, you should lose weight.
It’s a new year, you should make more money.
It’s a new year, it’s time to finally find a partner.
It’s a new year, better buy a house. Or a car. Or some bedding or something.

The ads say once you do all these things, then you can finally be happy.

What. A load. Of crap.

I love the new year, but I hate all the emotional manipulation that goes with it.

You don’t need to change who you are to be happy.

And you DON’T need to accomplish a bunch of stuff that may not even be what matters to you in order to deserve happiness.

In fact, trying to achieve happiness through goals that aren’t even your own is the surest path to dissatisfaction.

Now I’m not saying don’t set goals. I love goal-setting and right now I’m in the middle of setting my own 2016 goals and intentions.

But your resolutions, goals, and intentions for the new year need to be about who you are, what you want and what actually lights you up and turns you on. When you include the things you care about — not what you were told to do or what you should want — your goals may be odd and a little surprising, but they will lead you to a kind of happiness not found in the gym or with a financial planner.

So as you figure out what you want your 2016 to be like, here are some questions to consider:

Is this goal based on a felt desire within myself? One that I can feel in my body? Is there an internal yearning for this? Or is this a goal I’ve been told to want, feel like I should want or feel like I should do?

For years, I set financial goals for myself that I failed to meet. “Pay off all your credit card debt. Save 20% of your income.” Reasonable stuff like that. It took me a while to realize that the reason I failed wasn’t because of some horrible flaw in myself. It was because I hadn’t connected my financial goals to the rest of my values and my life. Once I set financial goals that were connected to things that genuinely excited me (instead of just doing what I was told I should do), my finances suddenly and sharply improved — because my reasons were intimately connected to my values.

Similarly, I never got much traction on any “exercise more” goals, but when it became about “having fun in my own skin,” suddenly dancing, hiking, swimming and sailing on a regular basis naturally followed.

What do I want my goals to feel like when I achieve them? Are the things I’ve written down for 2016 things that will lead to me feeling that way?

Have you ever accomplished something, and when it was all over wondered, “Is that all there is?” Sometimes we become so focused on WHAT we’re trying to accomplish that we lose track of why we even started in the first place, or whether we should have changed course in the middle. Connecting your goals with how you want it to feel will keep your life from just being a giant checklist.

Do my goals encompass all parts of me? Or just the parts that I feel are acceptable to pursue?

It’s easy to be ambitious about things that your family, your friends or your society rewards you for. But what about the things that the people around you don’t understand or don’t ever talk about? Over a decade ago, I decided my annual intention-setting needed to include goals about developing my relationship to my own sexuality. At the time, I knew no one who did such a thing and it felt incredibly risky to even write it down in my own journal. But now I enjoy so much spaciousness, self-knowledge, autonomy, pleasure and freedom that I want to go back and give my younger self a giant high five. What parts of yourself (sexually, creatively, financially, relationally) feel similarly risky to have goals or intentions around? What baby step can you take this year to include that in your goal-setting?

Dream big this year if you want. Or don’t. Try something bold this year. Or don’t. It’s not about what it looks like on the outside, and it’s certainly not about pleasing other people.

Make a life for yourself this year that is about you and your heart… I bet it will be extraordinary.

 

Mighty fine thanks to Martin Talbot for the photo.

The Naked Truth About Desire Smuggling

The world is not friendly to our desires.

In over a decade of relationship coaching and sex ed, I’ve talked with thousands of people about why they don’t ask for what they want. Reasons include: not knowing what to want, not having the language to ask, and “why rock the boat when it’s good enough?”

But by and large, the main reason we don’t ask for what we want is fear.

Fear of rejection, humiliation, and judgment.

Fear of disappointment, shame, loss, or guilt.

Fear of repeating the past, missing out, hurting your partner, or feeling like a failure.

Fear of “what they will think,” not getting what you want, or putting too much at stake.

Fear rules our desires.

You know to be afraid of these things because you’ve experienced them.

  • The look of disdain on some adult’s face when you expressed curiosity about masturbation.
  • Being laughed at for your youthful eagerness and enthusiasm.
  • Hearing someone say “Ewww” after you shared a vulnerable truth.
  • Watching helplessly as a friend got judged for wanting something that seemed just a little “outside the box.”
  • Seeing people’s hearts be torn apart on reality TV, and their imperfections shredded to bits on the internet.

The world is hostile to the sweet, fumbling, imperfect nature of desire.

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And so, to cope, we hide our desires from ourselves and from the people we love. And in the process, we become desire smugglers.

Desire Smuggling: Hiding what you really want from yourself and/or a loved one, then, finding cover strategies to get (at least pieces of) what you want.

We do it to stay safe. It’s a reasonable response to a toxic environment of shame and judgment.

At the same time, desire is powerful. Even in the face of fear, rejection, guilt, loss… we want what we want. And through better or worse means, we will try to get it.

Desire smuggling is something that we all do. The stakes are high around what you truly want, and being direct can seem outright terrifying in the face of these (often well-justified) fears.

What does it look like?

How to Spot Desire Smuggling

When I teach about smuggling desire, a class of 20 people can easily come up with 50-80 examples of ways we try to get what we want when we think it’s not available. From the merely annoying to the truly toxic, techniques of smuggling desire are endlessly creative.

desirepersistantDesire is persistent and will not be denied. When it doesn’t feel safe to want what you want, you will try to get it anyway. Here are some things you might do:

  • Expect telepathy
  • Make wishes
  • Fake spontaneity
  • Get drunk/high to remove inhibitions
  • Hint
  • Ask if the other person wants the thing you want
  • Rationalize cost/benefit
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Send articles about the thing
  • Give statistics about the thing
  • Say “people like…” (instead of owning it yourself)
  • Try to convince
  • Try to get the other person to say it
  • Complain that you don’t get it
  • Be “nice” and hope to be rewarded
  • Make unspoken deals
  • Issue ultimatums
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Tack on obligation to a “gift”
  • Minimize by saying “just” or “only”
  • Guilt-trip
  • Be passive-aggressive
  • Blame
  • Want the other person to guess
  • Wait for the right time
  • Wait for a sign
  • Buy into a romance myth (“If you really loved me…”)
  • Assume they should “just know”
  • Withhold
  • Force
  • Non-consensual taking
  • Be macho
  • Be loud and bombastic
  • Punish your partner for not giving it to you
  • Attack/judge someone asking for what you want
  • Attack/judge someone getting what you want
  • Look for other, less-scary places to get it
  • Shame yourself for having that desire
  • Shame others with the same desire
  • Avoid it altogether
  • Make sugar-coated demands
  • Compromise
  • “Purchase” it by doing other things
  • Get needs met without owning them
  • Tell a story about the thing desire
  • Martyr yourself in hopes of getting it
  • Substitute something else
  • Don’t explore internal dissonance
  • Bully
  • Criticize after the fact
  • Spiritually bypass
  • Settle
  • Play options roulette (where one option is the one you want)

Desire smuggling is a clue.

Looking at this list, it’s easy to criticize, blame or shame yourself (or your partner) for doing these things. After all, some of them are pretty shitty behavior, and others are just not terribly effective for getting what you want.

When you catch yourself (or someone you love) smuggling desire, the last thing you want to do is to criticize. Instead, have some compassion for yourself, and recognize two things:

  1. These behaviors are a totally sane and rational response to an environment where desire is discounted, rejected, ridiculed, shamed and otherwise devalued.
  2. Desire smuggling is a clue that there’s something you want.

When you catch this clue, then you can do something more effective with your desire. You can ask for what you want. You can bring it into your relationships. You can share with a community of trust where your desire will be celebrated. You can explore it safely. You can apologize for not being straightforward and find new ways of creating connection with the people you love.

When it’s safe to have desire, you no longer have to smuggle it. 

photo credits: OUCHcharley, Ray_from_LA

Embrace Your Erotic Creativity

Asking for what you want — in love, in sex, in relationships — requires creativity. Yet fear, shyness, and plain old being stuck in a rut can keep you from being creative in and out of the bedroom.

Erotic creativity is so much more than dressing up in lingerie or nibbling chocolate off of each other (though both of those can be fun.) It engages your mind and your senses. It requires you to let go of how things “should” be, and to be present, to play around with what’s here right now. It means you won’t necessarily know where things are going, or how they’ll turn out, which can be scary — and incredibly hot.

When you’re trying to find the right words to describe the feeling that drives your fantasies, you’re using your erotic creativity. When you get worked up thinking about the hot date you’re going to have later tonight, you’re leveraging your erotic creativity. When you spontaneously touch your lover in a different way than usual, you’re engaging with your erotic creativity.

Erotic creativity keeps things fresh, because you’re not bringing your same old self to the table. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or even noticeable to anyone but yourself. Erotic creativity starts outside of the bedroom, with little acts of innovation and playfulness.

Here are 10 ways to bring more creativity (erotic and otherwise) into your life:

Continue reading “Embrace Your Erotic Creativity”